Nancy Rothwell became the University’s first female president and vice-chancellor after Alan Gilbert retired from the position in 2010. If heading the university wasn’t enough to handle, Nancy is also president of the Society of Biology and a non-executive director of the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.
In 2005, she received her DBE, to become Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell. Her first academic achievement was a first class degree in Physiology from the University of London, moving on to a PhD and DSc in the subject. Nancy eventually moved to Manchester in 1987, where she began her career at the University.
Taking charge of the country’s biggest university has not hindered Nancy’s passion for research, as she is still very active in her field of study within the Faculty of Life Sciences, and at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust. She heads a team of 20 researchers in the study of the inflammation in stroke and brain haemorrhaging, producing finds which have attracted a considerable amount of financial input from outside of the university.
One aspect of Nancy’s research focuses on the involvement of a molecule produced by the brain, which seems to play a significant role in the inflammation and subsequent brain damage experienced after a stroke: interleukin-1 (IL-1). The research team has also been investigating the role of a substance that opposes the action of this IL-1, called the IL-1 receptor antagonist.
Kinert is a drug used in arthritis patients to counteract the inflammatory effects of IL-1. Nancy and her team are in the process of clinically trialling, and optimising the use of the drug in the treatment of stroke and other such inflammatory diseases of the brain. Their research could make headway into further understanding stroke, and potential treatments for the third biggest killer in the western world.
It is clear that Nancy, despite her commitments to the University as a whole, has not forgotten the reason why she entered into academia.